For the majority of college students and recent grads, the day after a night of drinking is accepted as a lost day of productivity. Happy celebrations in the evening turn into a mix of fatigue, weakness, and headaches the following day. Though not ideal, it’s been accepted as the price one has to pay for an evening out. However, for the founders of Dezo, it seemed like there had to be a better way to enjoy Friday without ruining Saturday.
One Saturday, Tim Demirjian picked up his good friend, Tomas Crowe, after a night out of drinking in New Orleans. Tomas was eager to have a productive day working out at the gym and accomplishing schoolwork, but he couldn’t focus on those things with a pounding headache and body fatigue. Rather than accept this feeling as the inevitable aftermath of celebration, Tomas and Tim pledged to develop a product that they could drink socially on the weekend, without experiencing negative effects and still maintaining productivity the next day.
On the other side of the country, Marc Kessler was having a similar experience. Having grown up in the liquor industry, Marc was no stranger to the negative impact of beer and sugary mixed drinks. Using a delicious cocktail recipe created to entertain his friends, Marc started to piece together ingredients for a drink that would transform the drinking experience.
Dezo is a line of low-calorie cocktails made from electrolytes and antioxidant-rich Coconut Water, Cactus Water, and Watermelon Water mixed with gluten-free spirits. Created with revitalizing ingredients that both taste good and set you up for success the next day, Dezo is setting a new standard for the balance between socialization and productivity.
The Founding Team
Marc Kessler and Tim Demirjian grew up together in Boston, having developed a strong friendship since the fifth grade. The Kessler family owns the oldest tavern in America, The Bell In Hand Tavern, est. 1795, a renowned Boston landmark. Growing up with the traditions of bar culture and celebration, Marc was no stranger to the industry and was always creating different cocktails for his friends and guests. Tim also has family on the liquor distribution side, having owned a large distribution company that was sold to Whitehall. When Marc left Boston for college at The University of Richmond and Tim for Tulane University, the two remained close, catching up over school breaks. While at Tulane, Tim formed a strong friendship with Tomas, as the two joined the same fraternity and bonded over their studies in business management and entrepreneurship.
After graduating from their respective universities, each set out on his own business career path. Tim worked in partner marketing for an innovative technology company that designs and creates state-of-the-art wearable and portable devices in Los Angeles, building out a merchandising line and running day-to-day relationships with their 65+ celebrity ambassadors. His vast network and experience in partnership marketing would set him up well for his future role at Dezo. Tim’s personal social media following of 1.4M+ has also helped with the brand’s growth and awareness. Tomas joined Aon, a leading professional services firm, and worked in risk management, with clients such as Netflix, Sony, and Playboy. Marc worked as the Head of Product at a social networking startup backed by the founder of Google Maps, creating technologies that connect entertainment venues to their guests.
Though each was busy building his own successful career, the three were brought together by the desire to improve the drinking experience. Tim and Marc had become roommates in Los Angeles, so together with Tomas, they started exploring base flavors and ingredient combinations for their health-focused cocktails.
Creating The Right Product Mix
Using CPG products from the local Gelson’s and Whole Foods stores in Los Angeles, the team created a flavor profile that had real potential. The team asked themselves, “Can we make this convenient and package it in a can” Before the days of hard seltzer popularity and the rise of brands like Truly and White Claw, the team took into serious consideration how to make Dezo accessible, convenient, and healthy. Never before had an alcohol product been first focused on thoughtful ingredients and health benefits, but the Dezo team was determined to strike the right balance of high-quality taste, low-calorie content, all-natural flavor profile, and alcohol content.
After researching the best-tasting electrolyte and antioxidant-rich ingredients to pair with gluten-free vodka, and playing mixologists in the kitchen to test flavor combinations, they landed on coconut water, acai, and Himalayan sea salt. Full of natural electrolytes and antioxidants to support hydration and wellness, coconut water proved to be the perfect base for Dezo’s first cocktail. Soon after developing the coconut water flavor, the team expanded its selection with cactus and watermelon water flavors as they pair well in cocktails and have similar health benefits to coconut water.
What sets Dezo apart is not only its health-conscious ingredients and replenishing properties, but also its transparent packaging. Consumers want to know what they’re putting into their bodies. Dezo is providing exactly that — full transparency of the ingredients in its drinks so that consumers can feel better and more informed about their beverage consumption.
Unlike its competitors that simply minimize the negative impacts of typical alcoholic beverages with reduced calories and sugar content, Dezo also prioritizes additive benefits like electrolytes and antioxidants. That’s why you’ll never hear Dezo referred to as a seltzer brand. Dezo is pioneering spiked superfruit water, with light carbonation that highlights the taste of real fruit water as opposed to masking artificial ingredients with carbonation.
Going All In on Dezo
In April 2019, after the first iteration of their coconut water-based product, and initial conversations with angel investors, the Dezo team felt its momentum was significant enough to quit their jobs and run the business full-time. By the fall of 2019, all three men were all in on Dezo.
After raising $750K from strategic angels in the CPG industry, the team started forming relationships on the distribution side of the business. Dezo partnered with Nebil Zarif, the owner of Summerland Winery in Santa Barbara who then introduced the team to contacts at Southern Wine and Spirits. Nebil is now a partner and the full-time National Sales Director. When COVD-19 hit, Dezo’s launch was pushed back due to distribution and production delays. This proved to be an important pause for the team. They spent time solidifying the brand and leveraging relationships with strategic partners in media and entertainment. One of these strategic partners is h.wood media, the marketing arm of LA’s leading hospitality group. Dezo will be served at select h.wood venues when businesses safely reopen and the h.wood team will help to facilitate influential marketing initiatives, celebrity partnerships, investments, and collaborations as the Dezo brand begins to rapidly scale.
Officially launched in stores in late July 2020, Dezo has since accumulated 400+ accounts including Ralph’s, Indian Wells, and PGA West, and has sold over 100,000 cans in its initial pilot.
Dezo has a strong cohort of believers. Its investors, advisors, and partners include players like Mike Levine, the Co-Head of CAA sports, Dave Newman, the Former Head of Analytics at PepsiCo, and Dan Kraft of the New England Patriots. To appeal to its millennial target audience, those who are interested in a combination of health & wellness, nightlife, and activities like Soul Cycle classes, Dezo has partnered with Dark Room Agency. One of Los Angeles’ fastest growing digital agencies, Dark Room has provided insights on its target consumer — those who are willing to pay a premium to get healthier, thoughtfully packaged products with natural ingredients and will help to grow Dezo’s digital presence going forward.
The team isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Dezo is rapidly introducing different nutrient-rich cocktails and pioneering this new liquor category.
Looking forward, Dezo is positioning itself to be at the forefront of DTC consumer alcohol distribution, leveraging its brand equity and strategic partnerships to make Dezo the go-to brand for millennials. Dezo is gearing up for its Series A round in May, to fuel national growth across Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, and Las Vegas. After a successful pilot in California, Dezo has the proper insights and strategy to roll out into new markets just as the country begins to re-open. Dezo is currently in conversations with athletes, artists, and influencers to ensure that Dezo touches every corner of the beverage market, keeping its customers healthier and more balanced along the way.